WoW 105: On being equipped for life, Meaningful Action, Part 10 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 105: On being equipped for life, Meaningful Action, Part 10


This episode is part 10 in a series called Meaningful Action.

​Part 1: On practicing awareness in the journey towards goodness​

​Part 2: On who are you becoming?​

​Part 3: On Wise Heroes​

​Part 4: On the value of virtue​

​Part 5: On small practices​

​Part 6: On changing course​

​Part 7: On the false self​

​Part 8: On the depth of desire​

​Part 9: reflection springs​

(Due to technical difficulties, I don't have this WoW recorded this week.)

Listen to every Words of Wisdom ever recorded.


In communities like the ​military​, ​backpackers​, and hunters they have a systematic approach to being equipped with the right gear, at the right time, for the right purpose. This holistic framework, known as the military taxonomy of first line, second line, and third line equipment, offers valuable insights not only for these specific contexts but also for living a flourishing life more broadly.

Today we will explore the fundamental concept behind this equipment taxonomy and examine how it can be applied beyond its original domains. By understanding the principles of each line of equipment, we can become better prepared to take meaningful action in any situation, whether it's achieving hiking goals, or navigating the unexpected challenges of life.

Let’s dig into this insightful framework and discover how it can empower you to live thriving and resilient lives.

The basic concept of this equipment taxonomy is as follows:

First line: the basic equipment needed for survival, to be kept on you at all times. This is carried on you regardless of the day, the mission, or your goals. Examples are a map and compass, first aid kit, fire starter, water filter, and water bottle. In the military this would include your firearm and minimal ammunition.

Second line: the basic equipment needed for the day, or the specific mission. This can vary widely based on your environment, the mission, or the conditions. Examples are some food, headlamp, clothing specific to the weather and conditions, and extra ammunition.

Third line: equipment that will sustain you: the gear, water, shelter, and food for multiple days. Examples are a saw, tarp or tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad.

When you have a sensible and reliable system you can be more prepared to take meaningful action: whether that is to carry out the military mission, accomplish your specific hiking goal, or handle the unexpected aspects to life.

Principles to consider.

1.There are different levels, or lines of equipment needed for different lengths of time and different situations.

2. You are always living within an energy envelope, and every skill, behavior, and decision affects that context. For example, if you are rock climbing you may carry extra gear to help you be more comfortable or more versatile and able to handle a wider set of scenarios, but if this extra weight, say extra 10-15 pounds, requires that you slow down, it can actually be more dangerous to carry more gear. There are tradeoffs to every decision you make.

3. You are not in control. In other words, it has been said: "There is a God, and I'm not him." Being prepared for the unexpected will eventually be profoundly important.

4. For a flourishing life, the focus isn't your equipment necessarily, but the internal and external practices, decisions, and community you engage with to navigate the difficulties you will face over the course of your life.

Let's look at some examples.

First line examples. First line behaviors are the daily or weekly practices that you frequently practice. These are known by some as your 'rule of life', they are done regularly unless you face a crisis or an unusual time of need.

These daily practices, or rhythms are your regular standards. They are what you aim for each day, regardless of the day.

Here are common examples:

Daily silence and prayer or meditation. Without daily time for quiet reflection your priorities are out of order and you are simply too busy.

Spend time learning each day. If you are in recovery, this could mean reading recovery literature each day. Perhaps this is reading Scripture daily. Professionally, maybe this is reading daily for 20 minutes every day to continue to sharpen your skills.

A regular morning routine.

An evening routine to prepare you for sleep.

Reaching out for authentic connection every day.

Seeking to serve someone each day. A life focused on others is superior to only thinking about what you can get out of life for yourself. Having a practice of praying for how you can serve others each day will open the door to incredible and unexpected opportunities.

A daily movement practice. Whether this is a daily walk, sitting in the bottom of a squat, working out, or doing yoga, having a daily movement practice is a fundamentally healthy way to live.

Second line: Practices, decisions, and skills for a specific season. Maybe you're in grad school. Or you're pregnant. Or you are in a major life transition. Your specific practices, decisions and skills will be unique to this season. Identifying the season that you're in, then, becomes key.

Second line examples.

If you're going on a longer vacation, come up with a plan for what you need to flourish on the trip. This could include everything from having a schedule, a packing list, telling a trusted friend or family member where you are going and what to do in case of emergency, or a plan to intentionally be spontaneous and to plan to not have a schedule. It could also include allowing a transition day when you return home to help you settle back in and not jump immediately into work.

Or, if you are in crisis, then the first priority is to acknowledge it and do things like identify what regular commitments you can say no to. You can also think carefully through who you tell about the crisis you're in, and who you won't tell. If you're married or in a relationship, discuss this plan with your partner.

Or, if. your marriage is in crisis, consider the ​12 strategies​ that I write about on my website, ​​

Investing in an intense season of self reflection by doing therapy. This could include a daily journaling practice, and 5-10 minutes of intentional breathing and prayer, two times a day.

Keeping the sabbath - having one day a week to not work and to prioritize your day exclusively on what is restful and worshipful.

Third line examples. Practices focused on helping you sustain and thrive over the long term.

Financially this includes: a plan for balancing generous giving, Investing, and long term savings.

Planning and prioritizing vacations. For some this is taking a multiple week vacation each year. For others, taking a few days or a week each quarter to get away from work and regular responsibilities.

Attending a conference or seminar in your industry, for your marriage, personal growth, or hobby. This is the type of thing that isn't needed for the short term but is beneficial over the long haul.

An annual silence and solitude retreat. The most influential man in history, Jesus, regularly got away on his own in the wilderness for extended time of silence and solitude. Why would you have less need for prioritizing this restorative practice?

In embracing the military taxonomy of first line, second line, and third line equipment, we can craft a sensible and reliable system to navigate life's challenges. By understanding the importance of different levels of equipment needed for different lengths of time and situations, we can make informed decisions that optimize our preparedness. However, it's essential to remember that true flourishing lies not in the equipment itself, but in the internal and external practices, decisions, and community we engage with. Our daily practices, tailored to our seasons, and long-term sustainability efforts all contribute to a fulfilling and resilient life. So, strive for balance, flexibility, and a steadfast commitment to growth as pursue a flourishing life.


"The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat."

Richard Marcinko, Rogue Warrior

"It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared."

Whitney M. Young Jr., To Be Equal


1.What does a flourishing life mean to you? How can you align your internal and external practices, decisions, and engagements to work towards that vision?

2. What are some examples of first-line equipment or practices that you consider essential for your daily life, regardless of the situation?

3. How do you currently approach second-line equipment or practices? Are there any specific seasons or situations in which you adapt your practices or decisions?

4. Reflect on your long-term sustainability efforts. What are some third-line practices you have in place to help you sustain and thrive over the long term?

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and prayers this week)


Prepare today. Unexpected battles will surely come tomorrow.

Live wisely,


Did someone send this to you? Do you want to cultivate more of the good, true, courageous, and beautiful in your life?

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